I’ve tossed and turned this week, thinking about the degree to which the media should be held accountable for what it does. Indeed, it is not a question of whether it should be held to account.
The media has enjoyed power for a very long time – famous journalists, working for big publications, sometimes enjoy a similar level of fame (and benefits stemming from that) as today’s actors or singers. And should they?
If one uses that fame to open doors for the public to get insights into the events and people that matter, then I agree, they are entitled to it. But if that fame goes towards personal gain or building a soapbox to preach from, then we have failed. Perhaps we need to impose a more clinical approach to the profession.
Just like the Hippocratic oath, we can have a Cronkite or a Pulitzer oath:
“I am here to serve the people. It’s not about me. It’s not about me. It’s not about me.”
Perhaps that would remove some of the omnipresent bias in today’s media. Except for a few notable exceptions (mainly press agencies), we’re all happy to be left wing or right wing or this or that. Since when is that the norm? Since when does saying “oh, but we make it clear to the audience what our stance is” make it acceptable for an industry that is supposed to open minds to information and truth to have an agenda? What does one have to do to be given the respect of being allowed their own opinion based on facts?
Looking at some of the media today, compared to ten years ago even, it’s as if it has devolved into a basic organism: focusing on its needs at the bottom of the Maslow hierarchy. The higher purpose has been obliterated by the everyday fight for survival.
After watching Elon Musk on Twitter this week, I read some of the articles about it (in case you’ve missed it, Musk was saying he wants to see journalists and publications rated by the public). Surprise, surprise: the media thinks it’s a bad idea.
And I can see why some would think that. After years of being the judge, jury, and executioner of everyone and anyone, it would be a shock to the system to have all of that turned around on them. And after spending decades telling an amorphous mass of people what to think, what to buy, and how to vote, it would be beneath them to be scrutinised by that same mass, now individuals with their own opinions.
So is it a bad idea?
Being held accountable when holding a position of power is always a good idea. How that’s done is a different matter. Because we cannot discourage the press from doing its job – that is an integral part of our democracy. What we need to do is make sure it stays on track and continues to fight for the many, whose voices are almost never heard. That is what we should all be here to do.
And in case you haven’t heard, we are working on a tool to do exactly that: have smart individuals around the world determine the level of misinformation, bias or fake news in any and all publications.
It’s time to separate the wheat from the chaff. It starts now.
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